Lebanese Air Force


     The Early Years





Lebanon gained independence in 1943 and started forming the army with French and British equipment.  It wasn't until the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 that the need to establish an air force was realized and in 1949, the Lebanese Air Force was formed under the command of then Lt. Colonel Emile Boustany who later in his carrier became commander of the army.
In the same year in 1949, a number of planes were donated by Britain and Italy.
Britain donated 4 Percival Prentices and 2 WWII period Percival Proctors while Italy donated 4 Savoia Marchetti SM.79 bombers which were mainly used as transports.












Army commander General Emile Boustany headed the Lebanese Air Force in 1949.






Artist's drawing of Savoia Marchetti SM.79 in full Lebanese colours and tail number (L-113).




Of the 3 types mentioned above, Lebanon became well known for flying and preserving the last examples of the SM.79 in the world which flew with the air force until the early 60s.  These were later stored in excellent conditions and eventually handed back to Italy to be displayed in museums and to this date, remain the only survivors of the type.







Left: A rare photo of a Lebanese Air Force Savoia Marchetti SM.79 (L-111) in front of a hangar in Baghdad possibly taken in May 1955 during General Emile Boustany's visit to Iraq.  At this time, he was already promoted to a General from Lt. Colonel.

Below:  The same SM.79 caught taxiing.  Note the WWII type planes in the background. 










                                                   A group photo at Rayaq AF base dating from 1950 gives a rare glimpse of the Lebanese Percival Prentice

                                                                   (on the right) showing the flag on the fin.  The nose section of the Savoia Marchetti SM.79 is clearly visible.  



In the first few years of its creation, the Lebanese Air Force appeared to be relying heavily on British made equipment and the Savoia Marchetti SM.79 was the only type not related to Britain.  During the next decade, the inventory of the planes grew with the introduction of the de Havilland DH.104 Dove, the T-6 Texan (Harvard), de Havilland Vampire and the Hawker Siddley Hunter all of which came from the UK.  The de Havilland DH.104 Dove was delivered sometime during 1951 and yet amazingly again, served for over 40 years.  The Dove was a transport and was also used for general purpose and reconnaissance missions. 












Above: The Percival Proctor was the first plane to fly for the Lebanese Air Force.  It was kindly donated by the UK in the first year of the air force's creation and flew for a few years.  The status of these planes is currently unknown.  Photo courtesy of the Lebanese Air Force.






An old capture of the de Havilland DH.104 Dove in silver paint with the roundel on the tail and the Lebanese flag on the rudder.  This combination appeared standard on almost all early types in service with the air force, including the de Havilland Vampire jets.  This Dove is in display to date at the Rayaq Air Base in the Bekaa Valley.  Photo courtesy of the Lebanese Air Force.




History Index




Next Page



Main Page